IN THE FIELD:
Tyler Moore, Chris Chinea,
Expect to see a combination of this trio behind the plate this weekend and, at least, over the first three weeks. Moore had the lead for the starting spot after fall, but it’s evened up, Mainieri said.
Tyler Moore, Chris Chinea
The catcher and first base battles are linked. Whoever does not catch will play first base, Mainieri said. But the most likely candidates are Moore and Chinea. Scivicque is a newbie to first base and doesn’t have the range of the other two.
Conner Hale, Kramer Robertson, Danny Zardon
Hale is expected to at least start the season here, but that could change. Mainieri has suggested that any hiccups from Hale, a junior college transfer, could send him to first base, where he played in the fall. That would mean one of the freshman playing second.
Christian Ibarra, Danny Zardon
A first-team All-SEC selection last season, Ibarra has no competition for this spot. The senior had 39 RBIs and batted .309 last season, leading to a 32nd-round selection in the draft that he passed on.
There’s one guy listed here for a reason. A returning All-American and the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2013, Bregman is expected to anchor the lineup in the No. 3 hole and be LSU’s defensive master.
Mark Laird, Sean McMullen,
A sophomore, Laird has moved from left field to right, where he had no starts last year. A .307 hitter last season, Laird again is expected to bat between leadoff man McMullen and Bregman.
Andrew Stevenson, Sean McMullen, Jake Fraley
A 33-game starter last season, Stevenson is a defensive star whom Mainieri expects to improve upon last season’s .193 batting average. The coach can’t afford to pull the speedy sophomore out of the lineup because of his D.
Jared Foster, Chris Sciambra,
Foster’s emergence over the first two weeks of preseason practice forced Mainieri to coin him as an everyday starter and flipped him to right, a more difficult sun field, while shifting Laird to left.
IN THE ROTATIONS:
Aaron Nola, Kyle Bouman,
Jared Poché, Cody Glenn
LSU’s ace and Friday night starter is no contest. It’s Nola, the junior All-American who went 12-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 2013. Bouman, a junior college transfer; Poché, a true freshman; and Glenn, a junior and returning weekend starter, are competing for the two weekend starting spots behind Nola. Those won’t be decided until the final weekend of non-conference play, Mainieri said. Poché, the Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year in 2013, led Lutcher to a state title last season, going 12-0 with a 0.61 ERA. Bouman had a 1.70 ERA at a Missouri junior college last year. Glenn, who begins the season as LSU’s midweek starter, had a 2.68 ERA and went 7-3 last year, but he was suspended for the NCAA regional for violating team rules and must earn back his weekend spot.
IN THE BULLPEN:
Joe Broussard, Kurt McCune,
Brady Domanque, Parker Bugg,
Nate Fury, Alden Cartwright
Mainieri admits that “there’s not really that one guy” in the bullpen (at least not yet), but it’s a deep list of relievers. He’s not sure who’ll emerge as the closer and solid middle reliever.
Getting Ready For the SEC: A glance at the opening non-conference schedule
A Real Test
The Tigers’ toughest test of this opening non-conference slate might come from an unlikely source: Louisiana-Lafayette on Feb.25. The Ragin Cajuns, runner-up in the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional last year, return many of the big bats that helped them finish sixth nationally in batting average.
Don’t Sleep On
Southeastern Louisiana. That’s right – another in-state small college could give LSU fits. The Tigers travel to Hammond on Wednesday for their first stiff test of the season. The Lions return their top two pitchers and hitter from a squad that, for a second straight season, finished a win shy of advancing to an NCAA regional.
LSU will likely be heavy favorites in all 18 season-opening non-conference games. In fact, 10 of the Tigers’ 13 opponents (they play three in multiple times) finished last season with an RPI of 150 or worse. Seven of those, including the two three-game series opponents (Purdue and Yale), had 200-plus RPIs, according to boydsworld.com.
What awaits: A glance at the 2014 Southeastern Conference
As seen from several preseason polls, the SEC is expected to be somewhat of a top heavy league this year. LSU, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and South Carolina all find themselves in the top 10 in several rankings. They’re the top four SEC teams in each of the four major preseason polls.
West Is Best
The SEC West is poised again to beat out its counterpart, the East. The East had just three teams make an NCAA regional last year. The West had six in the dance. For a second year in a row, all seven West teams should challenge for a bid. The East? Well, maybe it can get more than half of its members to the postseason.
Look Our For
Tennessee and Auburn. The teams have combined for one NCAA regional appearance in the last eight years. Maybe this is the year? UT welcomes one of the top prep pitchers in Kyle Serrano, third-year coach Dave Serrano’s son. Auburn, in the first year under ex-Oklahoma coach Sunny Golloway, returns starter Michael O’Neal (8-4, 2.73 ERA last season) and a couple of big hitters from 2013.